“To be successful in the feed market, we are looking at expanding across the value chain and move beyond feed. This strategy is a combined value proposition of PL, Feed for shrimp, fish (IMC) and high-value fishes like Snakehead and Barramundi, AquaSim (digital innovation of Skretting Global) and Aqua Health Care Products to serve all the main need of the farmers,” says Dr. Saurabh Shekhar, General Manager – Nutreco South Asia, in an interview to AQUA POST.
Q. How has the Covid pandemic affected the aqua feed industry in India?
Ans: The biggest challenge with Covid pandemic is the uncertainty of the situation. During 2020, the initial months were marked with panic selling and post lockdown farmers faced challenges with broodstock availability, logistical challenges, labour shortage, and shutdown of plants which ultimately led to low levels of stocking. Industry estimates suggest that shrimp production decreased by 20% to 650,000 MT. While the coronavirus pandemic and related lockdown contributed to the decline, continuing production challenges due to a host of disease problems impacted the production quite significantly.
The second Covid wave is again impacting the shrimp culture as several states are under night curfew and complete lockdowns on weekends. Due to these lockdowns and last year’s impact on production, many farmers are concerned, and some have opted to do partial harvests in some areas. The shrimp farm-gate prices are dropping as well. However, the government has exempted all fisheries and aquaculture activities from lockdown, thereby bringing relief to the farmers.
Having said that, the shrimp aquaculture industry is a growing, and with the increasing demand for animal protein that is safe for human consumption, we still expect that the industry will make a turnaround.
Q. What is Skretting’s future (investment and expansion) plan in the country?
Ans: Skretting is a known global leader in aqua nutrition with roots dating back to 1899. Our purpose is Feeding the Future and India plays a critical part in fulfilling the purpose. It is estimated that by 2027 India will have the world’s largest population. The growing population has led to an increase in demand for animal protein and with better affordability India remains an extremely attractive geography to fulfill our mission.
Aquaculture production will grow rapidly in Asia and India will remain one of the world’s largest seafood exporters with an increasing local consumption. To be successful in the feed market, we are looking at expanding across the value chain and move beyond feed. This strategy is a combined value proposition of PL, Feed for shrimp, fish (IMC) and high-value fishes like Snakehead and Barramundi, AquaSim (digital innovation of Skretting Global) and Aqua Health Care Products to serve all the main need of the farmers.
In 2022 with our new plant in Gujarat we are looking at an aggressive expansion in shrimp and fish feeds along with AHPC products. Our research and product development teams with our knowledge and global understanding are aggressively working to develop new products that are suitable for Indian aquaculture and will give huge value to farmers in the shrimp and fish segments.
We will continue to import our high-quality Marine Hatchery Feeds from France that will cater to the hatchery and nursery segments.
Q. What are the major challenges Skretting facing in India?
Ans: At present, we remain largely an importing unit which presents its set of unique challenges in the supply chain. We face the impact of recent regulation increasing import duties. However, we are hopeful that with our production facility coming up many of these challenges will get addressed. At present, impact of Covid has also been on the cash flow for all our customers which in turn has also affected the entire industry.
Q. Many feed companies give credit to farmers, albeit a risky business strategy. What is your company’s strategy to attract farmers?
Ans: Farmers are looking for a complete package: from seed to farm care, services and culture success. Our strategy is to help and support farmers in achieving a successful, disease free culture for profitable farming. Our promotion strategy has primarily been delivering well and encourage farmers to share their experience with fellow farmers and our customers have been generous in spreading the word to farmers’ community.
Our focus has been on:
- Superior quality feed that are performing well at farms and give farmers good profitability.
- Excellent technical services- We have a strong team that is experienced and skilled to guide farmers on good farming practices, give practical recommendations and help them from start to end to get a successful culture.
- We also actively engage farmers, nurseries and hatcheries (previously with offline technical seminars and now with webinars), due to Covid, to ensure we are connected and continue the knowledge sharing.
We are also working on loyalty programs which will be key elements to develop a strong farmer base. Further, we aim to expand beyond feed to bring in complete solution for our customers. We are about to launch new products in the AHPC range with an innovative marketing campaign that will further help us expand and strengthen our presence in India.
Q. The Govt of India has increased the import duty. How will it impact your business?
Ans. As last mentioned, we are certainly impacted by the increase in import duty but have taken contingency measures to support our growing business in India to continue serving our customers. We are in India for long term and will invest to grow in the region.
Q. Keeping the fast growth of the aquaculture sector in mind, the Andhra Pradesh government has introduced new laws to regulate the sector. Many other States may follow suit. Will it affect the feed industry? What is your view in this regard?
Ans: The new laws focus on standardization and improving the quality of products that are sold in the aquaculture domain. This is also a direct impact of increasing awareness on food safety. We believe that this is a positive trend and shall eventually be helpful for the industry.
As global leaders, we also follow stringent quality measures and through our company-wide quality programme – Nutrace, where we ensure end-to-end traceability and quality of the final product.
Q. Do you think in the present scenario when the raw material prices have gone up, is it possible to produce high performance feed at low cost? What is your view in this regard?
Ans: The volatility in raw material prices has certainly been a challenge for the entire industry in optimizing the production costs. We may need to look at alternate raw material sources and precision nutrition concepts to tackle the situation partially.
Q. What are the R&D initiatives of Skretting for India?
Ans: Skretting has its own research centre called- Skretting Aquaculture Research Centre (ARC) which was establised in 1989. At Skretting ARC, we have employees from more than 25 different countries, including 40 researchers specialised in fish and shrimp nutrition, in fish and shrimp health and also in feed production. Skretting ARC has been operating for over 30 years at 5 research centres and has contributed to some of the biggest developments in aquaculture feed with an annual investment of over 20 million euros in 2020.
We are continuously working on developing nutritionally superior products range- shrimp feeds, AHPC range, Fish feed (IMC and High value fishes). All the products that are developed globally are made as per regional requirements and are locally validated. In fact we are venturing into a demo farm for snakehead as a proof of concept. This initiative is taken up with a local emerging entrepreneur, where we would educate and train the farmers on the culture practices, feeding process and species handling etc. We have similar plans in pipeline for Asian Seabass. Our aim is to further grow alternate species in India with our global expertise in feed and farming practices of these species. The other opportunities are usage of big data and bringing in more automation to make farming more efficient and sustainable.
(To know more about Skretting India, you may visit www.skretting.in )